Expanding on Pencil

For manyrecent  months I have focused on pastel.  This is because I was working on paintings for my SAA application and I believed that pastel was my strongest medium that photographs well.  But I have been wanting to experiment with mixed media based on graphite drawing because I think that drawing is my real strenghth.

So now is the time!  It happens that our art club is having a show in January which we’re calling 3D and 3X3.  It’s primarily a 3D sthow, but to be sure that we have art to cover the walls we are also including “3X3 collections” – sets of nine 8″x8″ paintings by the same artist in the same media centering around a single theme.

Last year I did owls in colored pencil and they turned out pretty nice and sold well.  This year my theme is “a dog’s love is steadfast” and I’m going to experiment with mixed media based on drawing.  Here is my first try: “a dog’s love is steadfast in the exuberance of youth.”

I began with a graphite drawing I did back in August.  It’s on Stonehenge drawing paper and is all .5mm HB lead.  My first step was to seal the drawing front and back with Krylon Workable Fixatif.  I had a 8″x8″ piece of 1/2″ MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard, available at the local home improvement store in 2’x4′ sheets that I cut on the table saw) that I sealed with spray primer (another home improvement store purchase).

I attached the drawing to the MDF with acrylic gel medium and when it was dry I turned the piece face down and trimmed the excess paper away with a utility blade.  So far, so good.

My idea was to add color with very thin washes of Liquitex Soft Body acrylic.  The problem was that there was a working time of exactly zero!  So there was no chance to soften edges or do any wipe outs.  I tried dampening the surface furst with clean water which yielded an extended working time of perhaps 1/2 second!  After laying in Dioxazine Purple washes in the shadows, then a Cadmium Yellow wash over the entire dog, followed by a Burnt Sienna wash in the mid tone areas, and a Burnt Umber wash in the shadow areas, I gave up on the washes.  I think I would have proceeded further, despite the non-existent working time, except that a distubing speckled pattern was beginning to emerge.  I think (not sure, though) that it resulted from an incomplete coat of fixative on the back of the drawing resulting in uneven absorption of the gel medium.

So I switched to colored pencil softened with Gamsol applied with a q-tip.  This worked fairly well, but now I was into an oil-based medium.  Despite that, I cautiously added a very few highlights with white acrylic.  I painted the edges of the MDF with brown acrylic and applied a “finger rim” around the edges.  This is a technique I learned so long ago in china painting.  You dip your finger in gold lustre and run it around the rim of a plate giving a nice even edge that you could never get with a brush.  But in this case, I dabbed my finger unevenly along the edge then quickly knocked down the blobs with a quick swipe of a clean fingertip.  This gives the uneven edge that you see and which I like.

To seal the piece, I coated the front with retouching varnish.  For some reason, it really soaked in and in the process gave a nice translucent look.  I’ll paint the back with acrylic then seal the back and edges with acrylic varnish.

I’m pretty happy with the results with a few lessons learned for next time.  Next time, I will also use a 2B lead for darker darks.  And I will also leave brighter highlights at the acrylic wash stage.

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